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February 26, 2007
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 The H.R. Doctor Is in

Hordes of Lawyers

Two interesting bits of information converged this weekend to make the HR Doctor sit in his comfortable home office and contemplate the impact of lawyers on our society and, more specifically, on the practice of public administration.

Before you read any further, however, please pay special attention to the following warning: “Reading the rest of this article does not imply in any way that you, the reader (or for that matter, the author), have any opinions whatsoever adverse to the practice of law or to the personal characteristics or working habits of any members of the bar. Further, this article should only be shared with public or private sector attorneys who are personally known to you and approved by you to read words, which some may consider to be controversial.”

Do you accept the conditions outlined in the above warning? If so, you may read on. If not, then please stop reading immediately and move on with your life.

The first of these two converging events was the announcement of the annual awards for “wacky warning labels.” This is an award sponsored annually for the past decade by a Michigan lawsuit abuse watch group, ( Some of the absolute best are bullet-pointed below. Truly, these warning labels are only samples of the effects on our lives of the legal profession over-dosing on itself!

But first, please pay careful attention to the following notice. Notice and warning to readers: “The word ‘bullet’ in the sentence above is not in any way meant to suggest, support, condone or encourage violence, threats of violence or gun control in violation of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Wacky warnings winners

  • A label on a baby stroller warns: “Remove child before folding.”
  • A popular scooter for children warns: “This product moves when used.”
  • A brass fishing lure with a three pronged hook on the end warns: “Harmful if swallowed.”
  • A flushable toilet brush warns: “Do not use for personal hygiene.”
  • A household iron warns users: “Never iron clothes while they are being worn.”
  • A label on a hairdryer reads: “Never use hairdryer while sleeping.”
  • A warning on a carpenter’s electric drill cautions: “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.”
  • The label on a bottle of drain cleaner warns: “If you do not understand or cannot read all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.”
  • A can of self-defense pepper spray warns users: “May irritate eyes.”
  • A popular manufactured fireplace logs warns: “Caution — risk of fire.”
  • A cartridge for a laser printer warns: “Do not eat toner.”

A Chinese-American writer of a generation ago, Lin Yutang, is quoted as having said “when there are too many policemen, there can be no liberty. When there are too many soldiers, there can be no peace. When there are too many lawyers, there can be no justice.”

Are there too many lawyers? You are invited to read on, after reviewing the following: Note and warning to readers: “The following comments do not in any way suggest that any current or potential future law student or any current practicing attorney or student who has graduated from law school but has not yet passed the bar exam, should in any way give up their ambitions, hopes, dreams or other emotional ties to the practice of law as they believe it to exist in the year 2007.”

This morning began for the HR Doctor, after the completion of the dog walk, with a visit to the BBC News. Perhaps that would be wonderful exercise for anyone contemplating entering a career in the law or for law school faculty members. There is worldwide mocking and derision in progress about America’s fascination with lawyers. We have more lawyers than we have fire fighters, although I know that the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is working hard to change that in jurisdictions throughout America.

There are roughly 1 million lawyers in America, which is also a larger number than members of the clergy, i.e., about 403,000 and, indeed an even larger number than America’s estimated 500,110 elected officials.

The Web site,, provides interesting information to put this lawyer population expansion into a more helpful — or is it harmful? — context.

America, with 5 percent of the world’s population, has 70 percent of the world’s lawyers. There are 30 times more lawsuits in America than in Japan. It may well be true that lawyers everywhere else in the world, if they were counted, might not match the level of attorney presence in the United States. The membership of the last Congress, not surprisingly, consisted of 196 attorneys, but sadly, only three members who admitted to being human resource professionals. Lawyers’ domination of the legislative branch of government is perhaps matched by the fact that more than two-thirds of the 43 American presidents have also been lawyers.

Remembering that there are three branches to the federal government in the United States (a gentle reminder for those whose high schools no longer offer civics courses), it is reasonable to suppose that the third branch, the Judiciary, is also dominated by attorneys.

The result is that the federal government itself offers safe haven for hordes of attorney-boat people, scrambling to find security in the promised land of America.

The number of attorneys and the connection to lawsuit-happy America, complete with its resulting warning labels, gives rise to concerns about the impact of litigation on our ability to innovate, take reasonable public policy risks, and, therefore, focus on the future with curiosity and willingness to experiment.

The HR Doctor, who numbers many attorneys among his friends (seriously), invites you to consider for yourself whether it is possible to create visions of the future, which are compelling and offer hope for a better world, when those visions cannot become reality without surviving a gauntlet of threats of litigation, actual litigation, administrative law challenges, and the occasional threatening and annoying letter we have all received from members of the bar.

Although there is considerable truth in the quote from Lin Yutang, it is certainly also true that a nation of laws and a nation of equity requires a well-developed legal system and a well-educated population.

However, does it take a million attorneys to achieve that end? Not a bad subject for inclusion in law school curricula itself or for consideration when the next set of laws, rules, regulations, etc. are in the drafting stage.

Perhaps a new Affirmative Action program should be instituted in America — requiring equal or certainly improved representation of non-lawyers in preparation of laws, the administration of legal systems or the development of public policy.

I certainly hope that this article in no way affects my upcoming dinner with my wonderful legal colleagues in municipal government Jaime Cole and Doug Gonzales!

The HR Doctor hopes that all of your warning labels are removed only by the consumer!

Phil Rosenberg

The HR Doctor •


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